An unforseen consequence of China’s one-child policy is the impact it continues to have on girls and women in neighboring Vietnam. The resultant imbalance of the sexes in China has caused a scarcity of available females, creating a market for the abduction of Vietnamese girls for marriage and often domestic servitude. Girls from Vietnam’s ethnic tribes can be especially vulnerable. They may be poor or lacking in education, they may be unable to speak the majority Vietnamese language (Kinh), and the need to find work can make them more susceptible to being duped into human slavery.
At the age of 18, Hoang had no concept of human trafficking. From an ethnic minority living in central Vietnam, she went willingly with a woman from a neighboring village on the promise of work in China. Too late, she realised she had been sold as a bride to a Chinese man. Her parents were upset for her when she managed to contact them, but told her that she had no choice but to accept the situation. With no means of going home, all she could hope for was that the marriage would turn out to be a happy one.
It wasn’t. All Hoang longed for was to return to Vietnam, and her husband’s response was to try to beat the homesickness out of her. She went on to have a son and, by the time he turned two, her husband eventually gave in and agreed to take her home for a visit to her family. But the joy of seeing her family again made her more homesick and unhappier than ever, this infuriated her husband and he became angrier and more violent than before.
By the time Hoang had a second child, the need to escape was almost overwhelming – but she knew she couldn’t leave without her children. All she had to do, Hoang told herself, was wait: bear the abuse and the sadness for a little while longer until her youngest child was four years-old and able to manage the journey (which she had memorized from the previous trip). And so, that’s what she did, seizing her opportunity the moment her husband was away. It had taken nine years.
Finally, Hoang had made it home safely with her children, but there was still a long way to go in terms of legally formalizing her return. Fortunately, the local police contacted Hagar Vietnam, who mobilized staff from their Hanoi offices to formulate a strategy for legal, social and emotional support. In collaboration with the local authorities, Hagar organized birth certificates and household registration for Hoang’s children as the first step, then they developed a plan for schooling and Vietnamese language classes (since Hoang’s children could only speak Chinese). Next, medical check-ups were required as her children never visited hospital before and Hoang experienced severe stomachaches since she was in China.
As a result, Hoang’s children have a free access to education as part of the governmental support for households in extreme poverty. At the beginning, Hoang did manual labor work within the province and also followed her neighbor to find seasonal jobs out of town. It didn’t pay well, around USD 6~7 per day and it was not stable, either. Later, Hagar suggested a job at a supermarket in town for Hoang, but she was very reluctant to take on the offer. She never worked for a company before. She also felt inferior to others because of her low level of literacy and her past experiences. She constantly made excuses, “I can’t work there because I don’t have many words (which means that she couldn’t write or read well), or (A company has many regulations and policies “I don’t know how to follow them and probably end up breaking the rules...”
It has been over 6 months since Hoang started her work and last month she signed a full-time contract for a one-year employment.